note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Despite snow and rain pelting outside, nothing could dampen the spirit and sterling performances of Boston Equity stars Shana Dirik and Sarah DeLima, who shine brightly in NextDoor Center for the Arts’ production of Peter Schaffer’s comedy, “Lettice and Lovage”. These two veteran ladies of the stage are treasures, who light up any production in which they perform. Besides garnering awards, Dirik and DeLima’s individual talent and versatility are marvelous, but together, they’re sublime. Their sense of timing and comedic portrayals bounce off each other in perfect harmony, while the rest of the eight-member ensemble are necessary satellites - especially Michael Levesque as young lawyer Mr. Bardolph.
From her opening lines, Dirik as Lettice Douffet (pronounced Doufay), overly dramatic historic docent whose credo is to “enlarge, enliven and enlighten” by spinning tall tales about the boring Wiltshire mansion and its deceased inhabitants, is fabulous. With every new group of tourists, Douffet’s tales get wilder, more sensational, as she creates them on the spot.
She becomes irritated with an Elizabethan scholar who challenges her and asks for her historic reference, which she, naturally, cannot produce. She sloughs him off, claiming it’s from a locked family archive. Daughter of a thespian, Douffet is in her glory, until stuffy Lotte Schoen (pronounced Shane), listens to her spiel and is horrified. Schoen (the incomparable Sarah DeLima) is a member of the Historical Society that hired Douffet. However, after receiving letters of complaints about Douffet’s veracity, Schoen pretends to be a tourist, or as Douffet calls her, “a spy”. “This is intolerable...despicable,” rants Schoen. “Your tales are rubbish, fabrication!”
As the plot thickens, the hilarity heightens. When the two foils meet afterward in Schoen’s office and later, their relationship shifts from adversaries to a strange friendship, providing both stars ample fodder to unleash their fabulous skills during this two-hour, three-act British comedy.
Attempting to make amends after she realizes Douffet is a knowledgeable, avid historian, Schoen visits Douffet’s oddly-decorated, basement apartment in London, offering her an opportunity to become a tour guide on a riverboat, providing Douffet sticks to the facts. She admires Douffet’s spunk, she declares.
And after imbibing Douffet’s oddly concocted cocktail, Schoen unwinds, tipsily sharing secrets about her life, as the two form a bond -until an accident occurs that leads to potential legal action between them. As lawyer Bardolph interviews Douffet, he is initially perplexed and vexed with his wacky, eccentric client, especially after Schoen, the alleged victim, shows up. He then eagerly falls into step with their screwiness.
Don’t worry. It ends well.
It’s unfortunate “Lettice and Lovage’s” run was so brief - Jan. 20-28 - because it provides a slap-happy spark for somber winter days - or anytime. Besides helming this delightful cast, Brian Milauskas, nextdoor theater’s producing artistic director-director, has created a handsome set and costumes, while Erik Fox’s lighting and lovely musical interludes between scenes enhance the play’s refined tone.
For more information about future productions at the 40 Cross St., Winchester theater, visit nextdoortheater.org or call 781-729-NEXT (6398).